Both Malaysia and India are countries steeped in innovation with a strong desire to foster new, innovative start-up enterprises.
With a global focus on providing more support to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) – and recognizing that – Asian countries are keen to learn from each other’s experiences. These efforts have taken on a greater priority in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and his “Make in India” and “Start-Up India” campaigns.
, which is one of the most widely recognized impediments to SMEs, particularly for start-up enterprises. Through the $500 million MSME Growth Innovation and Inclusive Finance Project, the World Bank supports MSMEs in the service and manufacturing sectors as well as start-up financing for early stage entrepreneurs. The start-up support under this project ($150 million) is for early stage debt funding (venture debt) which isn’t well evolved. (Unlike India’s market for early stage equity which is considered to already be reasonably well developed.)
As part of this project, the World Bank and the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), recently held a workshop in Mumbai to allow market participants to learn from one another, and particularly about Malaysia’s successful support for innovative start-up SMEs. The workshop’s participants included banks, venture capital companies, entrepreneurs, fintech companies, seed funders and representatives from the Malaysian Innovation Agency (Agensi Inovasi Malaysia – AIM).
From the Yemen Enterprise Reviltalization and Employment Pilot Project.
In December 2016, the 18th replenishment of the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, put private sector development squarely at the heart of our organization’s commitment to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. In addition, the Internal Finance Corporation’s 3.0 strategy placed new emphasis on creating and catalyzing markets and scaled up the role of advisory services in providing firm-level support.
This new focus makes it even more important to answer the following question: Do we have sufficient evidence about the efficiency and effectiveness of the tools used by the World Bank Group to help firms grow in our client countries?
Building on a broad evaluation of the Bank Group’s support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), published in 2014, a recent report by the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice, supported by the Competitive Industries and Innovation Program, reviews the experience to date of supporting SMEs through matching grant schemes. The report looks at the how and why of an instrument that has been used in more than 100 Bank Group projects since the 1990s.
Matching grants are short-term, temporary subsidies, provided to the private sector on a cost-sharing basis (typically 50 percent). The grants generally aim at building firms’ capacity and knowledge through the procurement of business development services (BDS), which include a wide variety of non-financial services such as employee and management training; consultancy and advisory; marketing and information services; and technology development and diffusion. For example, a matching grant initiative in Uganda targets businesses in priority sectors such as tourism, agribusiness and fisheries with the goal of diversifying their products and increasing exports. A similar facility in Afghanistan operates in four cities – Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Herat – and helps SMEs and business associations to improve product quality and processing technologies, and to gain market knowledge in order to expand their presence in domestic and international markets.
The economic rationale for subsidies to private firms is usually a perceived underinvestment in BDS. This could be due to market failures preventing a profitable investment in such services (e.g., lack of financing for intangible activities, insufficient awareness of the potential benefits or perceived high risk), or to positive externalities from an otherwise unprofitable private investment (e.g., knowledge spillovers). If these conditions are not present, however, matching grants could create distortions in resource allocation, could have limited additionality and spillovers, or could have non-durable impacts if they fail to address the underlying market failure.
The Trade & Competitiveness report reviewed virtually all matching grant projects financed by the Bank Group over the last two decades. Most of these have focused on SME development while some have also supported rural development. Over half of the reviewed projects are in Africa, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. The average size of matching grant schemes is $11.5 million, with grants for agriculture projects typically being significantly larger than for SME development. The average number of beneficiaries per project is 450 and the average maximum cumulative funding going to a single beneficiary is $112,000, although this amount is much lower in many projects.
In terms of how, the report examines a number of common variables of matching grant projects, such as type of implementing agency and eligibility criteria. A key conclusion is that there appears to be no obvious correlation between the design features of matching grants and either positive or negative outcomes. Rather, matching grants need to be tailored to local circumstances and capacities.
The report does find that personalized technical assistance to beneficiary firms can increase the odds of success. In addition, contrary to perceptions, public implementing agencies generally outperform private consulting firms. Public agencies do particularly well in lower income countries where procuring large international contracts can be difficult and where the agencies know the local context. Whether public or private, strengthening of local capacities, broad stakeholder engagement, and transparent communication increase the chances that a matching grant will achieve its goals.
In terms of why, the report also examines how projects define what constitutes a successful outcome. About three quarters of the reviewed projects received a positive outcome rating. However, the definition of success varied widely, and rarely reflected measures of broad and sustainable economic benefit. Projects should articulate a sound economic rationale identifying a specific market failure. Otherwise, the benefits of a grant may not extend beyond the recipient firm or be sustainable in the long term.
For this reason, the report recommends that, when considering the use of matching grants, development practitioners identify a clear economic rationale, consider alternative instruments, carry out an economic analysis, assess the potential for additionality and spillovers, and establish a realistic exit strategy that would leave sustainable benefits. A strong monitoring and evaluation system is an equally important requirement and an essential tool for real-time assessment of impact, potential course corrections and learning. Strengthening these elements could help development practitioners and their clients maximize the benefits of this potentially powerful tool for private sector development and competitiveness.
To gain access to the full report, click here.
Helen Mwangi and her solar-powered water pump in Kenya © infoDev/World Bank
Managers of initiatives that support innovative entrepreneurs have a choice to spread their resources (and luck) among many opportunities or focus them on the most promising few. In developing countries, public and donor programs can learn a lot from how private investors pick and back innovative ventures.
In the early days of infoDev’s Climate Technology Program, our thinking was very much about letting a hundred flowers bloom: supporting a large number of firms with the hope that a few would emerge as blockbusters. Firms were selected on the basis of objective metrics tied to the innovative nature of their ideas and their economic, social and climate-change impacts. For example, while infoDev’s partner the Kenya Climate Innovation Center has more than 130 companies in its portfolio, a $50 million venture-capital fund in California would have at most six. Inspired by private investors, we have since rethought our program objectives for these centers, as well as the way we select and support businesses. The Kenya center is going through a rationalization of the firms it supports.
Like many public programs, infoDev and its network of Climate Innovation Centers had good reasons to support large numbers of companies. The main reason is the need to spread the entrepreneurship risk through a diversified portfolio. A recent infoDev literature review found that up to a third of all new firms do not survive beyond two years, let alone grow. Out of those that survive, data from high-income countries suggest that fewer than 10 percent become high-growth firms. So casting a wide net increases the chances of hitting the jackpot. The opposite approach, picking winners, is seen as destined to fail and distort the market.
Sinah Legong and her team meet at Raeketsetsa, a program that encourages young women in South Africa to get involved in information and communications technologies. © Mutoni Karasanyi/World Bank
Olou Koucoi founded Focus Energy, a company that brings light, news and entertainment to people living off-grid in his country, Benin. Its spinoff program ElleAllume hopes to train more than 1,000 women to bring power to 100,000 Beninois homes this year. “At the end of the day, [inclusive hiring] is not a gender decision, it’s a business decision,” he says.
Over the past few months, I interviewed a number of incubator and accelerator programs to compile best practices for the World Bank Group’s Climate Technology Program. The research spanned 150 programs in 39 countries, ranging from relatively new to seasoned veterans of the clean tech incubation space. The consensus regarding gender diversity and inclusion was almost unanimous; all but one program echoed Koucoi’s sentiments – in principle.
In practice, however, encouraging more women into the clean energy sector and related programs has proved challenging. Below are some of the most popular explanations for the low levels of female representation:
“We can’t find them.”
Many clean energy incubation programs said they had difficulty recruiting due to a lack of women in the industry and strong women’s networks to tap into. While there is no shortage of women in clean energy (with industry-specific examples such as clean cookstoves serving as a good example) there are few women-led businesses. This lack of visible leadership translates into lower rates of participation.
“We would love to focus on bringing more women into the program, but we have limited resources.”
Incubation programs are often lean, with little time and few resources to expand on offerings and create targeted programs for women. Instead, to create quick wins and draw in additional funds, programs often take a “low-hanging fruit” approach, seeking out the most visible companies to recruit and invest in, which tend to have male co-founders.
“Does it really matter at the end of the day?”
Many programs are pro-gender-diversity in principle, but gender-agnostic in practice. This stems from a disconnect between the “gendered-lens” approach discussed when fundraising for incubation programs and the results frameworks which judge their success. Such factors as the number of companies exited are still weighed much more heavily than gender balance.
Below are some of the best ways I have found to create more gender-diverse and inclusive programs:
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – one of the many cities in Africa that is expected to see sharp population increases – will need rapid job creation to keep pace with its swift population growth. The city’s new bus transit system – completed in 2015, with a $290 million credit from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries – is now reducing transportation costs, easing traffic and promoting private sector development.
Photo: Hendri Lombard / World Bank
Africa’s working-age population is expected to grow by close to 70 percent, or by approximately 450 million people, between 2015 and 2035. Countries that are able to enact policies conducive to job creation are likely to reap significant benefits from this rapid population growth, according to the Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, co-produced by the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, and the World Economic Forum. The report also warns that countries which fail to implement such policies are likely to suffer demographic vulnerabilities resulting from large numbers of unemployed and underemployed youth.
Never in recent history has anti-minorities rhetoric — anti-immigrants, anti-religious-minorities, anti-LGBTI — been so pronounced in so many countries around the world. Those groups, we are told, are the cause of our current economic crisis because they steal our jobs, fuel criminality and threaten our traditional way of living. And yet, the causes of our economic crisis are probably more nuanced, and initial research seems to suggest that more and not less social inclusion will help us overcome the instability of our times.
The exclusion of minorities from the labor force is becoming politically and economically unsustainable for many states that are struggling to retain their legitimacy and strengthen their competitive potential in an increasingly global marketplace. As a consequence, governments, international development agencies and academic institutions are now looking seriously at ways to develop policies that guarantee a more equal and sustainable form of economic development — development that addresses both short- and long-term economic goals.
The World Bank’s Equality Project attempts to address this problem. The idea driving the project is that institutional measures that hamper the access of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities to the labor market and financial systems (such as legal and policy restrictions, or the absence of appropriate, positive nondiscrimination actions) directly affect their economic performance and, as a consequence, represent a cost for the economy: If a sizeable percentage of the population is not given the opportunity to acquire a high-quality education, a good job, secure housing, access to services, equal representation in decision-making institutions and protection from violence, human capital will be wasted, income inequality will grow and social unrest will ensue. The World Bank’s widely cited Inclusion Matters report puts it succinctly: “Social inclusion matters because exclusion is too costly. These costs are social, economic and political, and are often interrelated.”
The project collected and validated data on the legal framework of six pilot countries: Bulgaria, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Vietnam. The methodological approach of collecting cross-country comparable data according to key indicators yielded some general but interesting results, published in a research working paper in March 2017.
Business reforms have an impact not only on businesses, and thereby on the economy and society, but also within government. When one part of government carries out a reform, it is noticed by others in government – and sometimes dynamics are created that lead to even more reforms.
Back in 2008, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was approached by the Bangladesh chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-B) for support in bringing its ambitious idea of arbitration into practice. Three years of rigorous preparatory work – including due diligence of market demand, learning about global experience, and socializing the idea among stakeholders in Bangladesh – led to the establishment of the Bangladesh International Arbitration Center (BIAC) in 2011.
This initiative – through an IFC-supported consortium of three premier business chambers: ICC-B, the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI) and the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – was an important milestone in itself. But there was more to come.
From establishing a facility to changing the law
During project design, the implementing team thought that establishing and operationalizing BIAC would be sufficient for introducing ADR in Bangladesh. Implementation, however, had more sobering lessons. It quickly became apparent that, for BIAC to succeed, changes would also be required in the legal and regulatory environment governing dispute resolution. As the organization’s credibility was critical to its operational success, the team initiated discussions with the Ministry of Law (MoL) to win its support for the enactment of regulatory and legislative changes, as well as the endorsement of BIAC rules.
Photo Credit: Women’s World Banking
Two years ago, Visa announced a commitment, alongside other organizations, to provide financial access to 500 million unbanked adults as part of the World Bank Group’s goal of achieving Universal Financial Access (UFA) by 2020. It’s widely reported that —no bank or savings account, no formal way to store or send money, no basic financial tools to manage life or business or help to generate income.
There was no doubt in our minds that Visa had a role to play, given the reach of our payments network and the fact that facilitating the issuance of digital payment accounts is our core business. What was not as clear was how much our efforts would need to factor in changes to strategy in order to ensure the kind of accounts people are receiving hit their mark in terms of usage and provided a genuine pathway to full financial inclusion.
Financial technology, “fintech,” has been reshaping the financial services industry with the level and speed of innovation that’s simply fascinating.
A month ago, my colleagues and I attended the 5th Annual Lendit USA conference to check out about the latest innovations and thinking in this field and see how we can apply it to our work.
There is growing interest in trying to figure out this new industry and take advantage of the opportunity. Now billed as the largest Fintech industry meeting in the world, Lendit organizers started this event four years ago with about 200 participants. This year’s event attracted more than 5,000 people.
We work on various areas of financial inclusion and are interested in new ways that can help expand access to financial services to hard-to-reach populations and small businesses in developing countries.
We returned with a new appreciation for the magnitude of change that is coming, and how quickly it could occur – and already is in some instances. Some innovations will help developing countries leapfrog into this new tech era. This could have a significant – and potentially highly positive - impact on financial inclusion, and fundamentally change the nature of financial infrastructure.
However, these opportunities come with potential risks, such as those related to (un)fair lending practices related to unmonitored use and analysis of big data or increased systemic vulnerabilities due to threats to cybersecurity.
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Youth trained with The Next Economy methodology.
© Cesar Gbedema/Impact Hub Bamako
Last month, Impact Hub Bamako celebrated its first birthday. The first of its kind in Mali, Impact Hub Bamako is part of a global network of more than 15,000 members in more than 80 locations worldwide, from Bogota to Phnom Penh. Combining innovation lab services with incubator and accelerator programs and a center for social entrepreneurship, Impact Hub Bamako provides a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration and collaboration opportunities for young, creative Malians working towards a common goal.
Co-founded by four young Malians — Fayelle Ouane, Kadidia Konaré, Mohamed Keita and Issam Chleuh — Impact Hub Bamako seeks to promote entrepreneurship and generate youth-driven solutions to Mali’s problems, as well as support women’s entrepreneurship and encourage social entrepreneurs to build a shared vision and work together for a collective impact.
“Establishing a community of young entrepreneurs was very important to us,” says Ouane, “so that everyone can build on and benefit from each other’s expertise and knowledge.” Indeed, Impact Hub Bamako hosts a diverse community of entrepreneurs, strategic advisors, architects, social workers, students, consultants, renewable energy specialists, and experts in agribusiness, ICT and corporate social responsibility.
By providing a shared space to work, as well as access to meeting rooms, events and that all-important internet connection, Impact Hub Bamako has given participants the opportunity to leverage each other’s expertise, as well as grow their professional networks not just nationally but globally, as Impact Hub boasts a multinational presence.
“This is our comparative advantage,” agrees Keita, now the hub’s director. “Our incubation/acceleration programs seek not only to promote the necessary conditions for job creation in our country, but also to professionalize our workforce and give them the tools to meet the demands of any employer.”